Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Perfect Storm

[Written for Film.com]

The most authentic thing in The Perfect Storm is the fishing. The movie’s strong on process:  the fixing of bait, the hauling up of lines, the stowing of gutted swordfish in ice. The detail in these sequences is briny and gunky, like the matted beards of the fishermen; it has a natural cinematic appeal, because movies excel at showing how things work.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Claim

[Written for Film.com]

The Claim takes shape from two sources. The plot is from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, a great and beautiful novel that seems reasonably available for adaptation to the frozen California Gold Rush era. The style is taken from Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, that gorgeous 1971 revisionist western shot in the Northwest rain and snow.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Way of the Gun

[Written for The Herald]

“Fifteen million dollars is not money,” says a grizzled veteran of the criminal life. “It’s a motive with a universal adapter on it.” 

The tang of that dialogue signals the return of Christopher McQuarrie, whose screenplay for The Usual Suspects created the cult of Keyser Soze and won the unknown writer an Oscar. McQuarrie makes his directing debut with The Way of the Gun, another investigation of the criminal code. Though not destined to be as beloved as The Usual Suspects, this brutal, wickedly funny film is every bit as accomplished a piece of work. 

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Patriot

[Written for Film.com]

How can a filmmaker with this much bad taste be blessed with such a dazzling gift for making images? That’s the puzzle posed by The Patriot, directed by Roland Emmerich, the German-born creator of Independence Day and Godzilla. Emmerich is like a database of classic compositions and camera angles, spewing out gorgeous tableaux with a punch of his visual keyboard. When South Carolina plantation owner Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) goes to his front door, and opens it to see a night battle waged in the trees on his farm, it’s an image out of a dream: musket-fire lighting up the darkness with white flashes, powder rising, the ghostly sound of voices.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Gladiator

[Written for Film.com]

Gladiator, a blockbuster-budgeted behemoth about ancient Rome, begins with a lyrical closeup of a man’s hand rippling through the wheat in a sun-dappled field. Yes, this has the look of director Ridley Scott, in that exciting/maddening way of his: it’s an image that could come from a tone poem, or from a TV commercial. Scott has always had both sides to his directorial personality, which I think is why I have a hard time referring to Alien and Blade Runner as classics (having never gotten over the thud of disappointment I felt on their opening days). In fact, for a highly regarded filmmaker, Scott has an awful lot to answer for, including G.I. Jane, 1492, and that horned fantasy Legend.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Cast Away

[Written for The Herald]

Robinson Crusoe lives again, in the utterly engrossing desert island drama Cast Away.

This film works for a variety of reasons. But one of the best is the simple dilemma that Mr. Crusoe faced in Daniel Defoe’s novel: how to survive in sandswept isolation (without the tribal councils of Survivor, yet). Cast Away began as the brainchild of actor-producer Tom Hanks, who nurtured the idea with screenwriter William Broyles (Apollo 13) and his Oscar-winning Forrest Gump director, Robert Zemeckis. The result is something close to the best of big Hollywood picture-making.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Charlie’s Angels

[Written for Film.com]

The development of the MTV style has brought us to Armageddon (a two-and-a-half-hour coming attractions trailer for itself) and The Cell (corrupt visual extravagance), so it is very tempting for critics to despair over the kudzu-like growth of this moviemaking approach. On the other hand, the world of music video also planted the seeds of Seven and Being John Malkovich, so it is not entirely a dead end. And now it has brought us to Charlie’s Angels.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

[Written for The Herald]

Once upon a time, the Oscars used to give out awards for “Dance Direction.” These days the art of choreography goes mostly unnoticed at Academy Award time.

They should revive the award, or invent a new one, for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The award wouldn’t be for dancing, per se, but for the beautifully choreographed martial arts scenes in this hugely enjoyable movie. The fight choreographer is Yuen Wo-Ping, who also designed the kung fu action in The Matrix. His work here is literally breathtaking.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Science Fiction

2000 Eyes: Mission to Mars

[Written for Film.com]

In the opening ten minutes of Mission to Mars, we receive all the mandatory backstory of the typical modern Hollywood movie: relationships are explicitly spelled out in the dialogue, a bond between a father and son (never again referred to) is invoked, personal histories are described with a minimum of subtlety. Director Brian De Palma, who has often been bored by this sort of thing in his movies, barely makes an effort here. A couple of longish Steadycam shots, at an astronaut party on the eve of a Mars expedition, represent an attempt to jazz things up — albeit rather pale in the light of the pyrotechnics of the opening of De Palma’s Snake Eyes. The dialogue is rock bottom, EXPOSITION writ large and crammed into every available mouth. Houston, we’ve got a problem.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Malena

The Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore picked up the best foreign film Oscar in 1989 with Cinema Paradiso, his widely-beloved ode to a movie theater in his native Sicily. This year, Tornatore is positioned to make another run at the Oscar. His new one, Malena, has already picked up a Golden Globe nomination for best foreign film, announced last week. It’s another period piece set in small-town Sicily, a time and place beautifully re-created. And, again like Paradiso, we see the story through the eyes of a boy.

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